The Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) has savaged recent security research which showed a majority support for full-body scans and biometric measures in airports.
TheUnisys Security Index, in which the systems integrator commissioned Newspoll to conduct a survey on 1200 adults in February, stated 70 per cent of respondents were happy with using full electronic body scans at airports.
It also found 68 per cent were willing to prove their identity through biometric equipment.
The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has pledged $200 million for airport security in response to a failed attack by Nigerian ‘underpants bomber’, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on a flight to the US on Christmas Day last year.
Rudd said $28.5 million will go towards screening technologies and body scanners for inspecting what is concealed underneath an individual’s garments. It will be introduced progressively by early 2011.
APF chair, Robert Clarke, lambasted the credibility of Unisys’ survey results since the company is a supplier of the equipment required for scanning and biometrics.
“There is a serious lack of credibility of survey’s coming out by organisations with explicit interest in the outcome of the survey,” he said.
Clarke accused the Government of misleading the public with suggestions the security technology will improve air travel safety.
“The impression was being given that this technology would prevent the kind of attempts to bring down aircrafts like the one by the Nigerian bomber,” he said. “This technology has nothing to do with the attack and it is just an opportunity for suppliers to sell based on the loose fear people have about planes being brought down.
While he concedes many Australians are supportive of airport body scans as they value physical security, Clarke said there is no evidence the technology would make any difference to air safety.
Passengers should not be subjected to possibly ‘embarrassing situations’ and additional travel restrictions imposed by the Government, he said.
“The threat level in Australia is extremely low and there is no demonstration these safeguards will assists with any threats,” he said.
The APF has come together with several civil liberty groups to ask Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, to conduct a privacy impact assessment on how these security technologies would work.
“We want him to demonstrate the improvements they would bring that would justify the privacy invasion,” Clarke said. “If it is really going to make a difference, I suppose we can put up with it, but only if it is proven.”